Travel, Just Empower!

Year is ending, consequently another year beginning!

And the usual scenario is always being on the run at work, more of brain-bled days. There are just a lot of thangs to organize, have a quick mind and to look beyond what is necessary for the next couple of weeks. Not to mention the holidays bustle! Well, the malls are getting festive as I had a quick detour last weekend to pay bills.

Watching sunrise from heights! Red eye flight is an advantage, in many ways…

Few weeks back, before I could get drowned over with my duties I went for an official trip to off-beaten Tawi-Tawi group! I wasn’t expecting to be back after nine years, what a joy! And again, with a smile shooting more birds with just one stone! This southern most province gave me lasting impression when I first came during Ramadan, to my surprise it was festive every day. They are to my mind are peace loving people. There has been much changes though after nine years.

Back for More!

Blue seas that meets the blue skies, in wide expanse at the Bud summit!

Why is it that wonderful trips are being challenged? Unperturbed, we touched down at Sanga-Sanga Airport after our flight from Zamboanga was cancelled, after booking last minute a flight from another airlines. So, we set aside official bustle when half of our workmates were left nowhere after the chain cancellations of many flights. Because coming to Bongao is not complete without the trek to Bud, we woke up the next morning earlier for the climb. It was surprising, being there is like a walk in the park – cemented steps got you, it was a lot easier with sheds and benches scattered as you go up. What was more surprising were the friendly macaque monkeys that came nearer interacting with the trekkers! Bud Bongao Forest Park was an experience. We lingered longer at the summit watching the horizon, feeling the warm sun and cool mountain breeze. We came down leisurely still admiring the monkeys, some came near for photos. It was overwhelming, we almost forgot our breakfast. We were famished when we got to our hotel. 😛

Quickie stroll at Panampangan Island!

The are more than hundred islands surrounding the province, with many beautiful unspoiled islets scattered in the open seas. Panampangan Island is one of them and was a far dream, the locals spoke well on its beauty but said it’s expensive for the speedboat hire. I was telling my buddy then – next time, who knows? Well, in our last day our hosts arranged for some water escapade for the group. Yes, to the islands of Panampangan and Simunul – I was smiling as if my face would split in half (okey, I am exaggerating)! 🙂

Bud Bongao floating on blue waters!

Riding on a speeding boat under the sun in the wide expanse of the ocean – all three speedboats, it’s engines sounding weird as it cruised over the waters intermittently bumping the waves. Our guide said, it would take at least three hours to the island on ordinary boats but we did it only in 45 minutes! It was a quickie hop, the waters might get rough later so it was all in a rush. The longest sandbar in the country during low tide, pure and exquisite!

Sangngy Siapuh (aka Laa Islet) Resort

Speeding our way to Siangay Siapuh (aka Laa Islet) for lunch, we raced with other boats! I love the warm sun, salt water spraying over us and the sight of wide blue seas. We lingered longer – food, laughter and fun – and we agreed that nobody would talk about work. A break is a break, we need to recharge bracing for the year end hullabaloos. 🙂

Changes, there has been lot. The Bud has been transformed to Forest Park complete with the cemented steps going up – but still the summit felt good. Laa Islet which was uninhabited before has lot of structures, now transformed to a resort. They call it developments, but I was thinking its effects in the surrounding waters of main island Simunul.

Joy of Passage

I never know when I could be back in the province, but it was another unforgettable trip. I admit the company of workmates from our rural development project is heart warming – well , the strength of our team is our relationship. 🙂 It was one happy memories just like in prior year’s Mindanao cluster travels.

Morning walk on town streets, those old acacia trees near the Bongao Doctors Hospital

If there was one I wanted to do again while in Bongao, it would be diving. The waters was so inviting, but I never took a dip. I just want it to be in the depths. Well, maybe next time! That night, as I close my eyes still wide awake I tried to recount the day’s hustle – bit of tan and much salt on my skin and hair. It’s been awhile, the pandemic have cut me off from the mainstream out of the blue.

Sailing for the night towards home

One more challenge as we went home, our final flight for Cagayan de Oro was cancelled! Whew – but never allowed myself to get distracted so we took the boat from Cebu, just right to arrive safe early next morning and still report to work on time. 🙂 A decade of spree travel thought me to grasp sudden detours with an open mind, come out victorious in the end with joyful heart. Travel is indeed empowering! And I’m now ready to be out again.

40 Days till Christmas

If there’s one present I want this Christmas, it would be one not in a box with an ornate bow! Yes, that’s my description of real gift. The one that fill my heart with real gladness. And as I have promised myself, I will definitely go for a dip in my go-to dive resort, that would be enough to brace myself for all the year-end intricacies. It would make me feel good, feel whole, like my healing process is not complete without the depths.

As I scribbled this, the boxes of decor came out from the storage, the Office would soon be with blinking lights, balls and wreaths. The season is all upon us with the festive mode before pandemic, almost back to normal. It’s like going home to Christmas!

Everyone feel brand new. Soon everyone will travel again!

Reef to Ridge Detour

Spilling few thoughts when my trip plans been shelved for awhile. Lately, there are few redirections to take on and I guess can not be taken for granted, mindful living is my new lifelong quest. To live in the present and be responsive to important matters that life threw at me. Of course, plans are still in my agenda because as they say, having plan (a good plan) is work half done!

Getting back in the mainstream after the pandemic is about catching up where I have left off, personal or official. And always, work duties get on the lead. It is necessary, very necessary. My trekking friends and I just accede without being disturbed or sad, we need to cancel the plan and stay grounded. Third quarter actually is critical, catching up is the general agenda of the whole force.

I was missing the depths, and so wistful about being in the great beyond. But before I could plan for another re-schedule, I got some injury. An ouch that can never be ignored. Diving requires fitness and balanced physical condition.

Nevertheless, there was an opportunity for a work trip – my first time to go outside the region after the pandemic subsided, just in time I got confidence to travel far from my abode. Again, it’s hitting two birds with one stone. Savoring nature’s best in the company of friends exploring new site without neglecting my responsibilities.

Trip to SOCCSKSARGEN was some breather. Actually, it was a reef to ridge detour.  Early trek and swim at Glan shores every morning was so relaxing.  Before we head back for an eight-hour drive to Cagayan de Oro, we spent a night in a farm at the foot of Mt. Matutum, a protected landscape. Indeed, peace and joy in the wide expanse of nature.

Last quarter would be more full I am so sure, but trips also comes with it I guess. I claimed 2022 as a year of healing for me so with the Lord’s blessing I wont let it end without getting into the depths. That’s my solemn promise!

Emerging from Cocoons!

Everyone is slowly, with caution and being very measured and very careful emerging out of their cocoons, now looking around and figuring out what they can do.  I guess for travelers like me, there has been lot of plans especially for trips – places to visit or revisit and activities to do – all of which everyone is dying to savor once again. For me, I’ve been missing the trips and the randomness of being on the road.

Slowly, I’m preparing myself to get back into the groove, those that would lead to where and what I love – the depths!  Also, I’ve been longing for those treks and being on top of heights.  Few of my planned hustles in the next semester is now in order, and I can’t wait! 😊

Dive in Mantangale and Camiguin

I have been dying to be back in my element, it’s unbelievable that it’s been two years since my last dive.  So for my quickie trip, my go-to abode for diving will always be Mantangale, Balingoan. And more than just for the dives, the place is perfect for other activities to unwind after a long week. One can sit quietly by the beach watching the horizons colored in perfect shades of blue, with the island born of fire at a distance!

Speaking of island, my favorite island of Camiguin is a haven for diving with thirty (30) dive sites all over, some of which are hard to beat. Aside from its natural wonders – falls, volcano, hot & cold spring, white beach, soda spring, so on – visit to the island is not complete without diving in its pristine reefs.

             Mantangale Alibuag Dive  Resort Inc. (MADRI)

             Balingoan, Misamis Oriental

            www.mantangale.com

            Mobile No. 0917 801 4560 or 0916 303 9415

            Camiguin Soul Divers

            Looc Tupsan, Mambajao, Camiguin

            www.camiguinsouldivers.com

            Mobile No. 0919 925 8453

Back to Isla

Busan Grande group has always been favorite get away, especially in those times when I just want for some quiet sojourn.  A place where one can find comfort surrounded with blue and green waters while listening to crashing waves, yet secluded from great structures.  Most importantly, its inhabitants are organized communities that are involved in protecting and preserving their invaluable resources.  They perfectly understood that nobody would do it for them except themselves and its protection is their ultimate mission if not sustain this nature’s gift endowed for their livelihood. The coastal communities around the islands believed in their heart that natural resources are always worth the effort in its preservation and protection as legacy for the next generation.

            Sohoton Grande Tours

            SAVE Sohoton Org.

            Mobile No. 0963 926 1426

Go Climb Once More

Just few days when I get back at work, my trekking group welcomed me with a trip plan and what a joy! So they were saying after 2ndQ hustles, we will go for a camping trip, They will make the necessary  arrangements with friends in South Cotabato.  The good thing is, I’ll tag along with them just leaving everything to their command.

Lake Holon trails just opened again for public after a lull during the pandemic, it was launched last March 12 spearheaded by Tboli Tourism Office and this was good news for all.  Actually, it’s like shooting two birds for this trek, climb Mt. Melingoy (Mt. Parker) and camp at Lake Holon. Another nature’s surprises await for this trip!

Diving in Jigdup Shoal

Obviously, Camiguin Island is one of my favorite destinations for diving, aside from being accessible and cost saving, the sites are arguably teeming with marine life and less crowded from divers. Jigdup Shoal has been a far dream, it was not a usual “go to” site actually, to my mind I presumed it was for hard core divers.

Deep diving at the Shoal!

There is always something new in my favorite island even if I come here again and again. We never thought we could dive in the shoal, it lies in the open seas and any changes in tides, current or waves can be risky. The DM told me that couple of days back the skies were overcast and the surfs were up, so he was hinting for Mantigue Island again for our scheduled dives.

The cheery morning greeted us as we cruised for Camiguin from Balingoan – beautiful sunrise, clear skies, calm waters – exactly what we needed for the day!  I was smiling and hoping at the back of my mind for the shoal. 🙂 Indeed, when we arrived at the diveshop, the DM announced for the Jigdup Shoal trip!

The corals bloom competing each other!

We wasted no time as we cruised for the shoal, situated in front of Bohol seas. The wide, blue waters was unbelievably calm, so perfect for our dives! Again, the God of the seas favored us in that weekend sojourn. Our first descent was in Black Forest, the briefing limited us at 25 meters depth with maximum of 45 minutes. I guess our DM had repetitive dives in the past days, so keeping safe his profile. The rich diversity of marine life was not surprising, the healthy waters was decorated with hard and soft corals and teeming with fish life. Floating around in the midst of marine creatures felt like home. It was so engaging I fell into more than our limits without noticing my depth. But being back in the waters after six long months was what I needed, I was aching for peace and serenity I can only find in the waters. It was unfortunate as I went around I found a fish trap waiting for prey, I felt bad just seeing them. In no time, I hold on to Angel to steady myself for our safety stop until we surface up. I went 32.2 meters and we had 56 minutes bottom time, way beyond the given limits.

Can you see the scorpion fish?

We spent our surface interval lounging on our boat amid the blue waters. The good thing was we are all alone in the shoal, at a distance I can only saw few fishers on their small boats treading for some catch. The blue skies and blue waters was so calming.

Blue skies, blue seas. Every shades in blue…

I left myself under the sun for few minutes just watching the horizons.

Culcita Noveginae side by side with a feather star, a rare sight!

Our second descent was in The Wall, which was just nearby and was richly decorated with critters. There were nudis, feather stars, giant clams, perennial anemone fish and lots of juveniles. We were hoping for white tips or mantas but we were not lucky. We sighted a turtle gently swimming away from us, pointing it out to Angel – his favorite specie. We swam and floated in the warm afternoon waters making most of the last few minutes, until we had our safety stop in the shallows. Hopping up on the corals searching for critters, we found a black shell on the sandy bottom, lingered awhile touching until it becomes all white! We lingered more until the DM gestured for surface. At 78 minutes bottom time, it was longer as we have planned. As usual, it was surprisingly good!

This elusive cowrie can turn all white after being touched!

We cruised back to the island grateful for the dives conquering the Jigdup Shoal. Camiguin has always in store few surprises feeding my soul, and it was such pure joy!

NB.

We were hoping to avail of perks during the Camiguin Dive Festival but nil, registrants need to appear at the DOT Office located in Mambajao, our dive shop was in Tupsan few kilometers away before town proper.

Bucas Grande: My Island, My Home

Serenity is where home is…

There are places you wanted to come home to even how far and remote it could be. A place where one can find comfort surrounded with green and blue waters listening the crashing waves, yet secluded from great structures. Bucas Grande Islands has always been my favorite get away.

After a lull of almost two years, I was back in the islands. There was no plan actually, my summer was void with trips except my farm visits. Things just fell its place, randomly our good friend in municipal tourism gave a ring and my travel buddy just pop up to visit the islands. My mind drift off to serene waters, blue lagoons, green environs, patch of white beaches, the nocturnal crickets singing, and the crashing waves that lull me to sleep. Simple pleasures that can be savored only in these remote islands.

We arrived Port Hayanggabon in time for lunch, so had a stop in a seafood shack while waiting for our boat. Lot of new structures sprouted at the port since my last visit. We found our boat and wasted no time for the cruise amid the waves, smiling our way as the sea breeze blew on our skins cooling the hot afternoon. And headed straight to tourism center for some pleasantries with our hosts and picking up where we left off since our last meeting.  After more than ten years there has been changes to cater the growing number of tourists and crew, and in a way surprised of new structures around the area.. The old tourism center almost dilapidated gave in to a larger shack with wider receiving area, surrounding ramps, platforms and docking area. There’s a floating cottage and floating restaurant nearby – well, I was wondering about its waste disposal!

Rushing up to get most of the remaining afternoon and the low tide, we head straight to Sohoton Cove – the mystical maze of islands covered in green foliage. We entered smoothly, our boat maneuvered perfectly with no hesitation or doubt. Once inside, I still had that same feeling of wonder like getting into a different realm, into another world – a city on the waters! We did our homage in Hagukan Cave, swam the warm waters glad of the super low tide, most importantly it was all to ourselves, such perfect timing! That rock in the middle was all to ourselves to stand on, as we view above the rock formations. I skipped the Magkakaub Cave, it was bit crowded. Angel did the climb and the plunge perfectly. 🙂 It started to drizzle as we did the last round and finally headed for the exit and in few minutes we were back in the center.  Later, we hopped to Puyo Island but decided to settle for Marka A Island for a swim.  We picked up few trash from the shores as we went around, the good thing was because it was already late, it was all to ourselves again.

We had a relaxing dinner back at the center, all the crew and tourists called it a day so we were left in tranquility, savoring again the serenity of the islands. The crickets started to chirp in the dusk. The center is now lit with few colored bulbs, a new improvement I guess as they were able to generate energy supply from few solar panels installed.

Unfortunately, Cinnamon Island where we had our lodgings for the night were full of guests so we missed its relaxing mode like it used to be. The crashing waves though, muffled the laughing and singing of the people.

Time was too limited, the next day though we revisited few sites we love. Our first agenda was the Tojoman Lake in search for the sting-less jellyfish, but there was none and instead looked up as brown giant bats started flying above the trees. We paddled around and our boat guide led us to Lubogon Lagoon, we found few juveniles silently floating the waters.  Tiktikan Lake used to be operated by fishermen coop, more structures were now at the entrance, bigger shack, slides, catwalk, platform and diving board. The interior lake itself was maintained but was deserted when we got there after a short trek, more people preferred the fronts which offered diving from heights.

La Fortuna was our last stop, the small strip of white beach at the front was an attraction but more was in store for us.  We trek for ten minutes for Bubon Lagoon, we have explored this secret nook before but now went beyond watching the placid waters. We kayaked around the lagoon, the lush foliage covering karst cliffs reflecting on the waters was purely a relaxing sight. It was all to ourselves! We’re on the run, yet we snatched few minutes to swam and play at the beach as we got back in the front.  Clottie joined us without complaining, this cute curly pup goof around with us, I gave her a bath but didn’t like it! And we enjoyed Raffy’s fresh buko, enough to quench our thirst and made us full!

We had late light lunch back at the center with our hosts, had brief pleasantries and finally bid bye. It was so short.  We cruised the afternoon waves for the port, again the sea breeze blew gently on our skin as we watched the vast blue sea before us. So brief, yet it felt so refreshing!

Last Note

It’s now more than a decade since I kept coming back here and I am glad that the islands have maintained its pristine waters and still free from trash. As we get around hopping to our fave spots, my keen eyes noticed few scraps which I pointed out to our boatman, in turn he assured me that a team was assigned for such task on a daily basis. The lesson I learned from the locals was that, getting the community involved to protect and preserve their invaluable resources was an effective strategy, they understood that nobody would do it for them except themselves and its protection is their ultimate mission if not to sustain this nature’s gift for their livelihood.  The coastal communities around the islands understood well that natural resources is always worth of care and preservation for the next generation.